Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Friday, June 5, 2009

Night of the Open Mic


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When someone puts a microphone on a person, is the person "miked up"? I think so. But then if you participate in an event where anyone can come to the microphone and read, are you part of an "open-mic" night? Mike v. mic. The sound v. the spelling. Hmmmm.


Night of the Open Mic

I grew up in an era when voices
were wrapped in the rough velvet
of booze and cigarettes. Low purring
voices brought me news, commercial-
breaks, station-identifications,
travelogues, and live reports
through microphones, which were
large like the heads of sci-fi
insects. Now

everyone is miked-up. People speak
small ugly truths inadvertently during
commercial-break when a mic
is left open. Talk-show hosts are
their own guests and soak in their
logghorea. Men and women speak
into their lapels, their wrists, their
personal computers, their phones,
lamp-shades, and autos. The aural

symbols strummed out by
our vocal chords are broad-corded
and re-cast. Every phoneme is caught
like a metal filing on a magnet. Singers'
voices are bent into tune. Sound is synced
with virtual image effectually. Few listen
carefully--a dying, folksy art. But
every little sound is heard and horded.
The mic is always open in this age,
this long night. Whenever you speak,

you speak into a mic. Not just
wires but the air itself is tapped,
sounds distilled and bottled
into essence, evidence, and confession.
How close to the microphone should
I get?
Such a quaint question. No
worries. The microphone is
always close to you; and open.
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Hans Ostrom

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom
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